Friday, May 25, 2018

Glenda, Hedy, Josephine, & Patricia

A Touch of Class — Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson — Not a Star, an Actress!  Also: Hedy Lamarr ... Josephine Baker ... and "So In Love" with Patricia Morrison. 
by Denis Ferrara

“OH, for God’s sake!  We’re not digging coal!”

That’s Glenda Jackson to The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck, after he ventured to comment that her current eight performances a week in Broadway’s “Three Tall Women” was rather grueling, and wouldn’t she prefer a nice little movie or TV show?  Apparently not.  Jackson also said, “My worst day is my day off.” 

Jackson who won Oscars for “Women In Love” and “A Touch of Class” abandoned acting for a feisty 23-year run in the British Parliament.  Now she’s back and as frank and as matter-of-fact as she ever was.
Glenda Jackson as Gudrun Brangwen in Women in Love, 1969.
When writer Scheck expresses surprise that she had no trouble being taken seriously when she entered politics, mentioning her renown and Academy Awards, Jackson replies, “Well, that doesn’t make you a star. A star is someone people go to see because of who they are. No one came to see me because of who I am.  They came to see me act.”  Oh, I don’t know. I rushed out to catch Ken Russell’s 1988 “Salome’s Last Dance” pretty much to see her. (Glenda also says she wouldn’t mind helping Cynthia Nixon in her run for governor of New York.)
Miss Jackson has been nominated for her fifth Tony Award for “Three Tall Women” which also stars Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill.

When Jackson returned to the stage as “King Lear” in 2016, she dismissed the London audience that had leapt to its feet with, “Oh, come on! We don’t do standing ovations in England!” (Shades of Patti LuPone, although Patti has yet to chide an up-on-their-feet audience — she just finds such homage de trop.) 

But if Glenda wins that Tony, she will likely allow her American fans to stand and ovate.  We’re so childishly enthusiastic here in the colonies.
As Elizabeth Tudor in Mary, Queen of Scots.
TWO MORE articles of note in The Hollywood Reporter.

First, a great big “Bravo!” to Eriq Gardner’s piece on Michael Avenatti, lawyer to porn actress Stormy Daniels and constant cable TV presence. Avenatti is interested in ... Avenatti.  CNN and MSNBC have been slobbering over him like he was Thurgood Marshall or Atticus Finch.  I think it is unlikely anything will come of his “case” against the president in regard to Ms. Daniels, but Avenatti has — or believes he has — found himself a place and a celebrity that will go far beyond the adventures of an aging porn star.  In show biz parlance, I’d advise Mr. Avenatti, “don’t dress.” 
Daniels and Avenatti making the rounds. Photo: Heidi Gutman/ABC
Finally, the back page of THR pays tribute to the great Hollywood beauty — and inventor — Hedy Lamarr.  Terrific.  But here’s the headline: “Hedy Lamarr; the Starlet Who Helped Invent Wi-Fi.”  OMG, in the name of all that is holy — Hedy Lamarr was a STAR. (Unlike the above-mentioned Glenda Jackson, nobody went to Miss Lamarr’s films to see her act.)  A starlet is a young female, working, slightly known, but who has yet to make the big-time. I don’t know how “starlet” morphed in meaning over the past decade or so among millennials, but surely The Hollywood Reporter should know better. Maybe the writer, Bill Higgins, is young and doesn’t understand the difference between a starlet and a star.  Bill, now you know. 
MAIL: “If she liked you there was no better friend in the world. Although Joan was the star of stars, she could be very funny about it! She and Stanwyck were close friends, in fact, she asked Barbara to do the Blackglama campaign for me and the three of us had lunch at 21 when she came to New York to be photographed.”  So writes the legendary ad man Peter Rogers, in response to our column on Joan Crawford last week. 

In fact, there was a big response to JC.  One reader admitted to having a “special place in my heart for the young, soft Crawford.”  The artist Russ Elliott recalled that Crawford “a friend and mentor” had hosted his one-man show and “hand wrote all the invitations.” Everybody was grateful I did not mention the name of that book or the deliriously campy film it spawned.
Also, lots of people “succumbed” — as one correspondent put it — to the wedding of Meghan and Harry. Everybody who wrote in admitted they needed a romantic break from school-shooting tragedies, ugly politics and the destruction of Hawaii.    

And it appeared quite a few readers studied a little photo I provided showing one part of one of my over-cluttered shelves, jammed with books, CDs and various tchotchkes.  “The Fabulous Josephine Baker” CD sparked particular attention from a dozen or so music lovers. 
Reader Omar recalled seeing Baker on TV when she visited Cuba “when I was a child.”  He also provided a 1964 YouTube clip of Baker in Paris, singing “Dans Mon Village,” which Omar recalled was exactly the way she’d closed her act in Havana, when he first saw her. (By that point Baker had evolved into a dramatic, evocative chanteuse, a world away from the rather giddy, high-voiced entertainer she’d been when she was the toast of Jazz Age Europe.)

I love my intelligent — and helpful! — readers.
“I HATE men. I can’t abide them even now and then/ if thou shouldst wed a business man, be wary, oh be wary: He'll tell you he's detained in town on business necessary. The business is. The business that. He gives his secretary! Oh, I hate men!”  Cole Porter’s lyrics to “I Hate Men” one of the many highlights of his classic 1948 Broadway musical, “Kiss Me, Kate.”

On May 20th, actress, singer and artist Patricia Morrison died in Los Angeles, age 103. A blue-eyed, dramatically raven-haired beauty, Morrison had an iffy — if often entertaining — film career. Some might recall her in several of the later “Sherlock Holmes” movies.  Or as the Empress Eugenie in 1943’s “The Song of Bernadette.” She toured with the USO during World War II.  
But I knew nothing of Morrison’s career when I discovered her at about age eight. Among my mother’s rather small collection of records was an original cast recording of “Kiss Me, Kate.”  First off, I was fascinated by the cover photo of Miss Morrison and her co-star, Alfred Drake.  As the rough and mercenary misogynist Petruchio, Drake stands behind Morrison — as the shrewish virgin, Katerina — a bullwhip wrapped tightly under her heaving bodice.  I was fascinated by that heaving bodice, and also with Morrison’s dramatically painted eyes, her arrogantly arched brows, her angrily bared teeth. 

And then I played the record. Over and over and over again.  This was my first exposure that I was aware of, to the work of Cole Porter, not to mention the basic plot of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” (In “Kiss Me, Kate,” Morrison and Drake are appearing in a musical adaptation of “Shrew,” the onstage relationship mirroring their off-stage lives as a volatile once-married couple.) 
Luckily my mother, who had seen the show itself, enjoyed the score as much as I did.  Well, perhaps not quite as much, but she put up with the turntable spinning almost every day, as I memorized every single song.  Right now, if you asked me, I could do the entire thing, from “Another Op’nin, Another Show” to “I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.”  (I could perform similarly with the original “My Fair Lady” and “Fiddler on the Roof” scores, but “Kate” was my initial immersion in musical theater, as well as displaying an ability to concentrate and retain information in a manner that I certainly never applied to my schoolwork!)

Later, I saw the 1953 MGM musical version starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller, which was okay if highly bowdlerized (Porter’s lyrics were a smidge too sophisticated for the tender ears of 1950’s moviegoers.)  And I loved the 1999 Broadway revival with Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell.  But Miss Morrison, Mr. Drake and the divine Lisa Kirk were and are perfection to me.  Miss Kirk — who became a fabulous fixture on the Manhattan cabaret scene — died in 1990.  Mr. Drake left in ’92.  Now Patricia Morrison.
I don’t feel sad — she was 103 and from what I understand, was living well and healthily.  As late as 2015, she attended a revival of “Kate” in Pasadena, and the year before that she performed at a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefit in Hollywood.

Well, I take that back.  I do feel a little sad.  Miss Morrison’s enchanting voice—not to mention her heaving bosom and fabulous eyebrows — put a lot of pleasure into a childhood that was often disordered and unhappy.  (Whose isn’t?)

Farewell and RIP, you were always, as Cole Porter put it, “Wunderbar.”
Contact Denis here.